AmEx Offers Small-Business Owners New Credit Card

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American Express Co. is offering start-up businesses its new American Express Community Business credit card.

The company sent direct mail pieces last week to small-business owners to promote the card. American Express is targeting small businesses from neighborhood shops earning roughly $100,000 a year to larger businesses earning millions of dollars annually, said Richard D'Ambrosio, director of the small-business service public affairs department at American Express Co., New York.

American Express is marketing the card through 11 small-business organization marketing partners, including the American Association of People With Disabilities, the Business Women's Network, the Latin Business Association and the National Dental Association. The partners have posted links on their Web sites to the American Express Community Business card application site,

Partners will receive an undisclosed revenue percentage for every small-business owner who links to the American Express site through the partners' sites. American Express also has provided links to the partner Web sites through its community business site.

The direct mail is being sent to the marketing partners' small-business members and to small-business owners whose names were obtained via undisclosed external lists, D'Ambrosio said. He would not disclose the number of direct mail pieces being sent.

As part of the company's Community Business Program, a small-business development program, American Express will donate 1 percent of all spending on the card to three development organizations: ACCION, an organization that helps low-income, self-employed people build small businesses through loans and training programs; the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, an association of small-business development organizations; and Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence, an organization that provides business loans and training to women attempting to start businesses.

"We are not spending a lot of time advertising nationally. The power of the program is our marketing partners and the sentiment behind the product," D'Ambrosio said. The marketing partners represent more than 100,000 small businesses combined, he said.

"The small-business owners remember what it was like to start out and want to assist microenterprises through this program," D'Ambrosio said.

The cards are available at no annual fee. They feature a credit line of up to $50,000; a 3.9 percent introductory APR and an annual interest rate of prime plus 5.99 percent; and "Everyday Savings" discounts from FedEx Express, Mobil, Hertz, U.S. Hilton Hotels and Qwest.

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